Aliveness And A Sense of Community
Dad stood beside me at the wet markets waiting for mom as she queued patiently at the vegetable stall. It was huge and occupied 3 times the size of any other stalls. Dad was telling me the history of the stall and that the 3 humorous men (tall fat, short stocky and short thin) were in fact brothers. Their father was the original owner of this large stall where the delectable vegetables glistened in their organicity. He was a portly bald man at the far end of the stall laughing with his customers as his hands danced along the vegetables expertly sweeping them into red plastic bags that belonged to each customer in his queue.
At my end, the tall fat brother (he was the oldest according to Dad) talked calmly and sternly to his customers and weighed vegetables in his ancient weighing scale and called out prices without much forethought. Just then, a baby a little over 1 year old started to make baby noises and bubbled happily but loudly. Mr stern brother immediately added to the chorus, his face contorting into a series of facial expressions that made the baby laugh. The young mother laughed to and approached the queue. Mr stern brother made more noises and instinctively the mothers in the queue took their turns to play with the delighted baby. At that very moment, I felt a warm aliveness (constrasting with the horrible sticky humid heat stuck to my skin) well up in my gut and I smiled unbidden. “Community” - the word that popped up in my mind spontaneously.
I detached myself from the periphery of the action and squeezed into the queue with Mom and watched her talk to 2nd (short thin) brother, whilst 3rd (short, stocky) brother flirted with what he called “my ladies waiting for me”. The 2nd brother very quickly included me into his conversation with Mom without breaking a beat - what a skilled conversationalist. He moved quickly without the sense of urgency and threw up a number as the last vegetable landed in our big red plastic bag.
I noticed that no one was stuck to our electronic devices - modern day addictions. And despite the manky heat (Mom proclaimed just that morning that she had to bathe 4 times a day), everyone was happy and chatting. The women who was shoved aside in the thin corridor laughed good-naturedly. There was in me a strong felt sense that even though there was this chaos, I was part of the chaos of bodies and voices and shared in its mood. At that moment, I was alive again; I was part of this community. At that moment, my need for a sense of belonging was fulfilled. I used to hate the wet markets as a child because it took me away from the television and it was hot and wet. Yet now, as I grow a lot older, I seemed to return to where it all started and relish in it all. My priorities have changed. The hedonistic attraction of the television has lost its appeal, giving way to a more fundamental craving to connect with others and transcend myself.
I felt alive again - at the wet markets - part of a community.
For this week, or even just today, go out there and really open your eyes (hint: dump the mobile phone), and take in the community and people around you. Oftentimes, what we've long for - the feeling of being alive - is already around us, in the connections we make and the presence of other people.